The Transylvania Times -

Guiding Our Community Back To School

Message From The Board Of Education


Last updated 8/20/2020 at 11:54am

Teaching everyone takes everyone. And it's the kids that count.

These mottos past and present of Transylvania County Schools remind us that even in the midst of a global pandemic, public schools offer every child a chance for a bright future in every North Carolina community.

Our public schools are community schools. That's why we as members of the Board of Education feel moved at this pivotal moment to ask for the help of the public, our fellow citizens of Transylvania County.

We respectfully seek and commend your cooperation to help our schools continue operating safely, for every child's well-being and growth. As a community, we serve children with much-needed opportunities, while still slowing the spread of the coronavirus in this community.

Our partners with Transylvania Public Health have been a tremendous resource and positive force. We rely heavily on their commitment to providing accurate and timely information, and we cannot say enough thanks to Director Elaine Russell, our school nurses, and the entire team for their support.

This teamwork empowers our schools to ensure that the best knowledge available guides our decisions about operating safe schools every day, expanding the opportunity to re-enter our schools safely, and to change direction should conditions require a different approach.

What we do now will make this effort pay off for our community, which depends on our schools. We thank you in advance for helping our schools set an example in these ways.

First, everyone approaching our schools to enter will be responsible for three important health facts before entering every day:

(1) They have not had close contact (within 6 feet, for at least 15 minutes) in the last 14 days with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or been advised to quarantine by the health department or health care provider. (2) They do not have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, including fever (100.4° or higher), chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, new cough, loss of taste or smell. (3) Since they were last at school, they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19.

This initial screen is just one way we count on the shared responsibility of the Transylvania County Schools family to ensure that the health and safety of all students and staff come first in our schools all day, every day.

New supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), and the latest technology including handheld touchless thermometers or kiosks that scan for a user's temperature in three seconds or less, have equipped our schools thanks and enriched our partnership with Transylvania Public Health, with special thanks to generous supporters such as the Dogwood Health Trust.

Schools and facilities have modified their traffic flow and access areas since schools were last home to in-person instruction, to prepare for following the “Three W's” - Wait, Wear, and Wash - and other critical public health recommendations.

“Wait” means more space between desks, meals in classrooms, visual cues in our hallways, and other ways to help individuals remain six feet apart whenever possible to minimize contact.

“Wear” describes the required cloth face coverings that, when used correctly, reduce virus transmission when people are near one another. Following these NCDHHS guidelines faithfully in our schools and our community will help everyone share the responsibility for protecting one another, a message that we embrace in our schools.

“Wash” reminds us that all year long, good hand hygiene includes washing hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds, or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer as a substitute.

Making our school facilities and school day conducive to new ways of behavior is a major undertaking. Schools are making efforts that will pay off in the health and well-being of our students. These behaviors, when we all share in them together, can and will make the difference in keeping our community healthy now and for the long term.

Days spent in classrooms and schools with added safety measures will look and feel different in a number of ways, as we bring much-needed contact and social interaction back to our schools. Under “Plan B,” our limited capacity for students meeting in classrooms under strict guidelines means they will meet in two cohorts on different days of the week.

However, healthy relationships already being built among teachers, students, and parents and guardians, are the bedrock and foundation for our community schools to serve every child with the educational opportunities they deserve.

Commitment to that mindset - that “teaching all means reaching all” - is precisely what empowered Transylvania County Schools to be the first and only school system in North Carolina since 2015 to offer remote learning on “Virtual Days” when weather closed school buildings and made travel hazardous.

On the strength of an already vibrant 1-to-1 computing program, our schools and technology team have blazed forward and made devices available for free to every single child in kindergarten through 12th grade. Additional grants have provided a limited number of homework hotspots, and community organizations are joining in efforts to ensure that no child is left offline in Transylvania County.

As this pandemic has persisted, that same commitment encouraged accomplished Transylvania County educators - in the classroom and behind the scenes - to draw on their depth of experience and professional learning for a brand new chapter. They have guided families through the initial onset and into a new reality where 30% of students asked Transylvania County Schools to provide them instruction and social-emotional learning remotely through the TCS Online Learning Path.

Across our elementary, middle, and high schools, professionally-trained educators are stepping into roles as Online Learning Path teachers and team leaders to help students and families keep learning alive, no matter what. The learning never stops, even though students remain apart from the school building for reasons that are almost as diverse as our families themselves.

We hasten to note that while students are apart, teachers continue to serve students and families as they always have, using their classrooms as the canvas for practicing the art and craft of great teaching. This is the core of our public schools. This is what makes our teachers the true power behind our community for every child's health and wellness, social and emotional learning, academic excellence, and development into future citizens and leaders.

Along with this innovative offering which serves the needs of so many in Transylvania County Schools, it is also important to note the vital services provided by the TCS School Nutrition Services team, and how they continuously evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of our children and community.

Through emergency feeding programs in the spring and summer, a highly-skilled and committed coalition of School Nutrition and Transportation teams delivered several thousand meals each week to children ages 18 and under, with no regard to their enrollment status. Grants from partners such as the Carolina Hunger Initiative allowed families to take delivery of “Emergency Meals To You” at home, opening up over 550 children to healthy, nutritious meals if they were unable to travel to one of the sites offering meals this summer.

These emergency programs may not take center stage while school is in session, but the needs don't simply disappear. We encourage our community to continue making generosity its priority, both in community charities and in the Backpack Buddies program which operates through our schools year-round.

Faced with a new challenge of nourishing children on three distinct tracks in our schools, the innovation and flexibility of our local School Nutrition staff is already catching up with the rigors of this new environment.

Children in school right now, starting August 17, may take meals home for school days when they are in remote learning, and away from the school building. Online Learning Path students and their families are enrolling for meals right now that will be served at drive-through locations or delivered to their homes based on need.

From the most basic needs of nutrition, transportation, and safety to the higher-order services of great teaching and learning, innovation, and technology, it is crystal clear to us that here in our schools, it will always be “the kids that count.”

The strength of our community is shining through once again as everyone rises to the moment, as it has on so many other occasions. The coronavirus pandemic may be our latest and greatest challenge, but it is not the first and will certainly not be the last challenge that our public schools face in partnership with the citizens of Transylvania County.

In recognizing the strength of our schools, we also thank and commend all who make this growth and performance possible, without whom Transylvania County Schools might simply be another business or service organization, and not our community's own public schools:

Our young people who are eager to learn, educators trained and prepared to foster their growth, and the dedicated partners who support our families are once again driving home the motto that perfectly suits this, and every moment, in our schools.

“Teaching Everyone Takes Everyone.”

Tawny McCoy, Chair

Ron Kiviniemi, Vice Chair

Courtney Domokur

Marty Griffin

Alice Wellborn


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